James Whelan Butchers on the Late Late Show

Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Press | No Comments »

late-lateEarlier this year in London, James Whelan Butchers Clonmel, had their heritage cure ham listed in the ‘Top 50 Foods 2016’ Recognising the quality of the exceptional produce and its distinctive flavour, particularly low in salt the judges commented ‘ that the Tipperary based producer achieved a ‘ beautiful, moist texture with a delicate salting of the ham’

The heritage cure ham, coupled with other products from Whelans, are now stocked in leading food halls around the world. In recognition of Ireland’s growing artisan food culture, the Late Late show on this Friday will feature James Whelan Butchers as part of a group of artisan businesses, showcasing their products. Speaking to the Nationalist this week, Pat Whelan said ‘ it’s a great privilege and honour to be recognised for our work. Tipperary has great heritage in producing fantastic food, The Tipperary Food Producers have showcased local food both nationally and internationally with great pride. This is another great opportunity to tell the world how great Tipperary is’. Be sure to tune in this Friday evening 16th Dec, just after the news.

James Whelan Butchers Shares its Food Philosophy with Dunnes Stores

Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Press | No Comments »


James Whelan Butchers wish to announce that they will be relocating their butcher shop from Monkstown to their new home in Dunnes Stores, Cornelscourt.

At Cornelscourt you can avail of our brand new store as well as the Dunnes Store better value benefits, free parking and a really exciting new food offering.

Our Monkstown location has allowed us to grow our business substantially for which we are very grateful and we wish to sincerely thank all of the loyal customers who made our time there so special.

We are very excited about this new chapter and look forward to seeing you.

All the team at James Whelan Butchers.

JWB Opens New Shop in Cornelscourt

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Press | No Comments »

We are delighted to announce that following the successful launch of our butcher shops in Dublin with Avoca Handweavers, we are now bringing our craft butchery excellence and expertise to Dunnes Stores. In August, we opened in Dunnes Stores Swan Centre, Rathmines and on next Wednesday October 5th we open in Cornelscourt. The entire supermarket will include James Whelan Butchers and a number of new additions to include Sheridans Cheese Mongers and Baxter & Greene.

James Whelan Butchers Cornelscourt Dunnes StoresOur specialist craft butcher shop in Cornelscourt, will allow customers come and see first hand how we approach our craft. As well as the opportunity to buy and taste our top quality meat products, customers will be able to see our skilled professional butchers in action in what will be a new food experience for the Irish consumer in an amazing setting.

The new butcher shop in Cornelscourt promises to be very exciting environment offering a range of great food under the one roof with 100 per cent focus on delicious, seasonal, Irish food.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers for their support in making James Whelan Butchers so special.

From Pat Whelan and all the team at James Whelan Butchers, we look forward to welcoming and serving you in Cornelscourt from next Wednesday October 5th.

James Whelan Butchers Wins Gold!

Posted on Monday, September 12th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food, Press | No Comments »

James Whelan Butchers wins the overall Gold Award at the Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards for their Dry Aged Angus Striploin Steak!

The winners have been announced for this year’s Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards with James Whelan Butchers celebrating their Gold Award win for the second year in a row – beating more than 1,000 products in 85 categories.

iqfa-2016-win-goldNo stranger to this prestigious accolade, this is the second year in a row that James Whelan Butchers have won the award, winning this year with their Dry Aged Angus Striploin Steak. The king of steaks and a firm customer favourite, this certified beef is dry-aged in the traditional way and cut into thick, juicy steaks which results in superb tasting steaks with unparalleled tenderness and taste. “We feel there is simply no steak which can beat our tender and succulent Dry Aged Striploin for flavor and quality and we, as a team are thrilled with that the product has been recognized and awarded,” said Pat Whelan on receiving this year’s award.

We feel there is simply no steak which can beat our tender and succulent Dry Aged Striploin for flavor and quality and we, as a team are thrilled with that the product has been recognised and awarded,”

Other Gold awards presented on the night included the Gold Value Q Winner which went to Dunnes Stores My Family Favourites Mature White Cheddar from Bandon Vale, the Gold Christmas Q award went to Aldi Exquisite Mince Pies from Genesis Crafty, The Gold Free From Q went to Lidl Deluxe Beetroot Relish from Follain and the Retailer of the Year Award, introduced for the first time this year was awarded to Dunnes Stores.

The winners were announced by Irish celebrity chef and author Rachel Allen, on 8th September at the Round Room in the Mansion House, in Dublin. These dry-aged-angus-striploin-steak-detail-jpgprestigious accolades, now in their fourth year, set out to recognise excellence in food and drink product development from a wide variety of companies across Ireland.

Always a customer favourite the Dry Aged Striploin Steak and can be purchased directly from James Whelan Butchers stores or via the website www.jameswhelanbutchers.com.

Full details about the awards and the full list of winners are available at irish.qualityfoodawards.com.

James Whelan Butcher Academy

Posted on Saturday, August 27th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food, Press | 2 Comments »


James Whelan Butchers to invest €100k in new scholarship program, dedicated to the art and craft of butchery.

This Autumn James Whelan Butchers will launch the first privately certified professional butchery academy. Renowned for their exceptional combination of innovation and tradition, the gold standard in Irish butchers, James Whelan Butchers, is delighted to announce a new, fully accredited scholarship programme to run over three years in James Whelan Butchers shops around the country.

Initially open to 10 candidates, the inaugural year of the Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers in partnership with Butchery Excellence Ireland begins on 1st Oct 2016 next. That date will see the beginning of the creation of a new generation of skilled craftsmen and women, focusing on the same fundamental appreciation and respect for the art and craft of butchery that has always been a driving force in this successful Irish company.

There has been an upsurge in the demand for quality apprenticeships in recent years and with the 2016 Leaving Certificate and CAO results just out many young people are looking for alternatives to college degrees.

Looking at the success of applicants who have completed apprenticeship programmes such as the world renowned Audi Apprenticeship Programme and D & D London’s Chef Apprenticeship Programme currently in it’s 10th year, the Butchery Academy couldn’t have come at a better time for students on the cusp of their career path.

Pat Whelan, CEO of James Whelan Butchers, is a man passionate about the responsibility and importance of training. “The Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers is an opportunity for us as a company to select and help shape 10 great people as butchers, to share our ethos with them, and to equip them with the essential skills to ensure there is a new generation of butchers in Ireland as committed to their craft as we are to ours,” says Pat Whelan. “At James Whelan Butchers we have the knowledge and the expertise and want to share these with the next generation of butchers and teach them the art and the skills of the trade, a trade we have dedicated our careers to. I certainly believe that we have a responsibility to communicate those to butchers, either those brand new to the trade or to those who want to invest in themselves and significantly improve their skills.

We have the infrastructure to create a Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers that offers students a unique and rewarding experience, one that is exceptional. James Whelan Butchers is investing €100,000 over the course of the scholarship, which is a significant commitment, but I am very excited about getting people excited about butchery as a career.”

butcher blocksIn partnership with Butchery Excellence Ireland, the fully accredited Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers is a three-year scholarship where, from a practical point of view, the first group of 10 successful candidates will work full-time across selected James Whelan Butchers shops. There they will be trained on the job daily by the most senior experts in the company. Following an in-depth syllabus divided into a series of modules, over the course of their studies, the Butchery Academy scholarship students will then follow rotating placements out into other James Whelan Butchers shops. Working on a continuous assessment system, Butchery Academy students will be working full-time for James Whelan Butchers and will be paid as a full time team member during the course of their studies.

“Our single greatest asset is our great team of people,investing in people is the most worthwhile investment you can make,” says Pat Whelan, CEO of James Whelan Butchers. “As a company, James Whelan Butchers has always fostered a culture of shared learning, and the Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers is a natural continuation and extension of that.

In our shops you see our craft coming to life. In any James Whelan Butchers shop it’s not just about exceptional product, but also about creativity, flair, communication and relationship building, just as behind the scenes it is never just about butchery, but also about stockmanship, attention to detail, maturation, physical skill and technique and, ultimately, respect.

Being a butcher is more than just a job. Being a butcher is being a specialist, an expert, a skilled craftsman, someone trusted by your customer. For the Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers I want people with an ardent interest in the area to come forward to fill those first 10 positions. I want those bordering on the obsessive, because then we will have the best chance at creating a healthy and dynamic legacy.

For further information or to apply to the Butchery Academy at James Whelan Butchers, see Butchery Academy

Applications should be made by email to info@jwb.ie

Successful candidates through to the next selection round will be called for interview during the third week in September and the Academy start date is the first of October.


Certified Professional Butchery Internship


We can give you the skills to succeed in the world of butchery.

Let us know why you would make a great Butcher & What is your passion!

Get in touch and tell us about yourself so as you can be part of this life changing experience.


James Whelan Butchers Grab the Stars at the Great Taste Awards

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

JWB Beef DrippingEvery year the Great Taste awards celebrates the very best in food and drink from across Ireland and the UK. Last year was an incredible experience winning both Great Taste Golden Fork award for the best food from Ireland and the overall Great Taste Supreme Champion 2015 for our humble beef dripping.

This year we’re delighted to announce that 8 of our delicious products have received the stamp of excellence from the Great Taste Awards.

What’s really interesting about Great Taste, is what the judges had to say. The great thing about the process is that the judges blind taste all of the products, so you receive comments based entirely on the taste of the product. All of their comments help us to learn and develop the products from the feedback be it good or bad. We’re delighted to further announce that our Heritage Cure Ham has now been named as one of this year’s Top 50 Foods. It will be interesting to follow this product and see where it ends up for Christmas. See what the judges said about our Gold Star products:

Heritage Cure Ham – 3 Stars

“An impressive joint, juicy and with a good even layer of fat. Wonderfully inviting, moist, pink slices. The fat is delightful and the lean meat is tender, sweet and succulent. Well judged cure and delightfully delicate smoke. There is good pork flavour here. We tried this both thickly chunked and thinly sliced, both were wonderful – we were rather reluctant to let this leave our table.”

Heritage Cure Rack of Bacon – 3 Stars

“An impressive looking piece of bacon, with a good layer of fat, well caramelised. There is a good amount of juice when cut into, and it cut quite easily. The meat was succulent and soft, and there was a great piggy flavour and subtle smokiness. The flavours of the meat were superb and very well balanced through the curing. Clearly a quality piece of pork, and well looked after.”

Free Range Iberico Rack of Pork – 2 Stars 

“An impressive looking bit of pork, with good colouration and an appealing layer of fat. The meat was succulent and had a good level of fat, but not overly greasy. There was an agreeable amount of “piggy” flavour that came through, and there was some lovely sweetness from the meat. It carved well, and the meat had a good density to the muscle. Quality meat.”

Sweet Cured Streaky Bacon – 1 Star 

“A sweet flavoursome belly with juicy meat, a good nose of pork, the glaze has a good sweetness to it.”

Heritage Cure Oyster Bacon – 1 Star 

“A good cut of bacon with a superb crunchy crackling. Sweet bacon with good juicy succulence. The meat has a slightly stringy texture, the profile is not complex but it is delicious.”

Free Range Iberico Pork Chops – 1 Star

“A very delicious crackling with good clean fat. The pork is very simple and pure. The whole thing is lifted by the fat – there is a good tenderness to the lean meat.”

Cured Pork Belly – 1 Star

“A good piece of belly – fat to meat content is very good. The fat gives flavour and succulence. The porkiness carries on and this would be good hot or cold. Juicy and succulent pork with real depth of flavour.”

James Whelan Pork Lard – 1 Star

“A beautiful creamy colour and texture. The aroma is characterful but markedly clean. The aroma carries through on the palate – the flavour is gentle and clean; quite mild. Both at room temperature and melted the gentle flavour is very appealing and we did find the clean finish a happy one, ensuring the versatility of this product for pastry sweet as well as savoury.”



Tipperary Food Producers Hosted Great Taste Awards Judging

Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »



It was a feast for the senses as Tipperary Food Producers hosted Great Taste Awards judging for the first time.


The spirit of meitheal was alive and well in Tipperary this week as the Tipperary Food Producers Network welcomed the Guild of Fine Food and a host of Irish and international judges for the Great Taste Awards with a series of special events.

Following Clonmel’s own James Whelan Butchers Supreme Champion win last year at the Great Taste Awards, the Guild of Fine Food took their show on the road and for the first time ever held the Irish judging process in County Tipperary.

Welcoming a whole host of food experts such as Charles Campion, BBC Radio 2’s Nigel Barden and many of the best chefs, buyers, restaurateurs and writers in the business, the Great Taste roadshow were given a true taste of Tipperary and a genuine sense of Ireland’s impressive and diverse collection of food and drink producers.

Starting on Tuesday after the day’s tasting with an evening at the famous Coolmore Stud, judges and guests were taken on a behind the scenes tour of the stud generally acknowledged to be the world’s biggest and best thoroughbred racehorse breeding operation. During their tour they were treated to a special audience with Galileo, the crown jewel of Coolmore, followed by a relaxed BBQ supper featuring local products such as the famous James Whelan Butchers burgers and The Butcher’s Daughter sausages, freshly made corn tortillas from Blanco Niño, breads and from Mag’s Home Baking and meringues from The Tipperary Kitchen, all accompanied by delicious wines selected by Gary Gubbins of Clonmel’s own Red Nose Wine. After supper, guests were brought to McCarthy’s of Fethard for some craic agus ceol in the form of the rousing Pheasant Pluckers who soon had the whole crowd singing along.


Aside from the evening entertainment and feasting, there was serious business to attend to during the day. The annual Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are considered the ‘Oscars’ of the food world and the ‘epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize’, being an acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink. The business of tasting is a thorough and rigorous one with over 1300 products entered into Great Taste 2016 from Ireland including cider, beer, tea, preserves, meats and cheeses and over 850 products were judged in Tipperary this week. The Great Taste Awards have seen a large increase in Irish companies entering the awards since last year alone, a jump from 157 in 2015 to 215 in 2016.

On Wednesday evening, following the second day of tasting, guests enjoyed a tour of the spectacular Rock Of Cashel and some traditional Irish dancing by local children. A five-minute stroll downhill and guests arrived at Chez Hans for a Long Table Dinner. Set in a converted Victorian Gothic church, Chez Hans was the perfect setting in which to showcase the excellent standard and quality of Tipperary produce, with a stunning and sophisticated six-course tasting menu.


The menu included pulled pork ravioli using magnificent Crowes Farm pork, with swede puree, almonds and lovage butter, followed by deep fried brie and beetroot salad with black pudding and watercress courtesy of Cooleeney Farm, O’Donnell’s and Inch House. One of the key dishes was a fillet of Irish Piedmontese beef, with beef dripping fondant potato, made using last year’s Great Taste Award Supreme Champion winner, James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping. There was also Crozier Blue, pearl barley, cider and celeriac with onion marmalade and rapeseed oil from Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Longways Cider, Crossogue Preserves and Emerald Oils, and guests enjoyed some exceptional French wines from the Languedoc, again carefully chosen and provided by expert Gary Gubbins of Clonmel’s own Red Nose Wine.

Finally guests were treated to something sweet from The Apple Farm, Boulabán Farm and Lough Derg Chocolates and something soulful from the wonderful Kathy Nugent. Her dazzling performance of Broadway classics roused the crowd to song, and she even made a few misty-eyed with her rendition of As She Moved Through The Fair.

On the final evening, following three and a half very successful days of tasting new flavours, forming new friendships and falling in love with Tipperary, guests and judges could choose from four separate intimate dining experiences. Each as personal and authentic as the other, one dinner was served in Crossogue House and Farley Castle, home to the famous Crossogue Preserves, a second dinner in Inch House, home of the renowned black pudding, hosted by owners John and Nora Egan, a third in Hickey’s Bakery and Café hosted by fourth generation baker, Nuala Hickey, and the fourth in elegant Greenane House.

Guests and judges spent a warm and welcoming evening with their respective hosts before retiring for their final night’s sleep to Hotel Minella, who looked after all the judges throughout their entire stay with charm and professionalism, and in cosy comfort.

patwhelanGTSC2015Last year’s overall Great Taste Awards champion, the Harrods Trophy Supreme Champion 2015, winner of a coveted Golden Fork and three gold stars, was James Whelan Butchers’ magnificent Beef Dripping. Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers is the current Chairperson of Tipperary Food Producers, so his passion for the area and his enthusiasm for having the opportunity to introduce these important international opinion-makers to the best of his home county were a major factor in this year’s judging roadshow decision.

“The judges, from all corners of the food world, have had busy days of judging in Tipperary, but have also had three evenings packed full of flavour, colour, welcome and fun in the capable hands of Tipperary Food Producers,” says Pat Whelan, Chairperson of Tipperary Food Producers. “This was a wonderful project to be involved with, and it has been made possible by the generous support of all the local and national agencies whose collaboration is immensely appreciated by all at Tipperary Food Producers. Our sincere thanks go to Tipperary County Council, Bord Bia, Local Enterprise Office Tipperary, Tipperary Tourism Company, Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine, North Tipperary Leader Partnership, and South Tipperary Development Company.”


For further information, please see www.tipperaryfoodproducers.com

Great Taste Awards come to Tipp

Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Great Taste Awards come to Tipp – international judges hosted for a series of special events by Tipperary Food Producers Network

Tipperary Food Producers is a community of businesses working in the food and beverage sector in County Tipperary whose objective is to represent, promote and showcase the very best of Tipperary food. An organisation that currently has 29 member businesses working together, they will be joining in a spirit of meitheal, of cooperation and mutual assistance, to welcome national & international guest judges from the Great Taste Awards to the county this April.

The annual Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are considered the ‘Oscars’ of the food world and the ‘epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize’, being an acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink.

Last year over 400 judges came together at 49 judging days from March through to early July, including a judging roadshow that travelled to Wales. This year the Great Taste Awards travel again – this time to Ireland and, while it may be a long way to Tipperary, it will certainly be made worth their while, as the judging panel will be hosted by Tipperary Food Producers for a series of three very special and individual events, showcasing the produce, the talent and the welcome of the Premier County.

Last year’s overall champion, the Harrods Trophy Supreme Champion 2015, winner of a coveted Golden Fork and three gold stars, was James Whelan Butchers’ magnificent Beef Dripping. Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers is the current Chairperson of Tipperary Food Producers, so his passion for the area and his enthusiasm for having the opportunity to introduce these important international opinion-makers the best of his home county have been a major factor in this year’s judging roadshow decision.

Supreme-Champion“Winning the Supreme Champion Award with our Beef Dripping at the Great Taste Awards last year was phenomenal,” says Pat Whelan, Chairperson of Tipperary Food Producers Network, “and I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my pride and passion for Tipperary produce with some of the people who made that decision, and those who will choose this year’s winners.

This network of businesses is driven by producers whose core values of ethics, integrity and excellence are a perfect fit with the philosophy of the Great Taste Awards, so I am looking forward to introducing our guests to some great flavours and wonderful people over the course of three unforgettable evenings.”

At the end of each of the three judging days spent in Tipperary, blind-tasting a range of food and drink from all over Ireland for this year’s Great Taste Awards, the visiting judges will be taken to a series of events designed to highlight this county’s bounty.

On Tuesday 26th of April, judges spend an evening at the famous Coolmore Stud, on a behind-the-scenes tour of the stud generally acknowledged to be the world’s biggest and best thoroughbred racehorse breeding operation. Followed by a BBQ dining experience featuring local products and an opportunity to meet Tipperary food producers, the evening will progress to McCarthy’s of Fethard for music and craic!

On Wednesday 27th of April, judges have an evening tour of the majestic Rock Of Cashel, followed by a drinks reception featuring locally produced beverages on the Rock. Dinner will be a long table dinner in Chez Hans, in its spectacular setting of a converted Victorian Gothic church.

The last evening, Thursday 28th of April, is an intimate evening with individual Tipperary Food Producers, where groups of judges and guests will be hosted at various locations throughout the county by different members of the Network, to experience a personal and authentic Tipperary welcome, culinary and cultural experience.

The judges, from all corners of the food world, have three busy days of judging ahead of them in Tipperary this April, but also three evenings packed full of flavour, colour, welcome and fun in the capable hands of Tipperary Food Producers.

“This is an exciting project that has been made possible by the generous support of all the local and national agencies,” says Pat Whelan, Chairperson of Tipperary Food Producers, “and their collaboration is immensely appreciated by all at Tipperary Food Producers. Our sincere thanks go to Tipperary County Council, Bord Bia, Local Enterprise Office Tipperary, Tipperary Tourism Company, Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine, North Tipperary Leader Partnership, and South Tipperary Development Company.”

Mother’s Day

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | 1 Comment »

Personally this week I am planning for Mothers Day which is coming up on Sunday the 6th March. I have two women to think of; my own mother and my wife; mother of our children. They understand the concept of making it a special day for Mammy but they need my help to procure the gifts and help with arrangements. Their idea of what their mother would like as a gift is often touching, sometimes crazy and other times quite ingenious. In a recent pre shopping chat someone suggested that, “Mammy might like a new set of Star Wars Lego!” (Mental note to self, “Teach the children to be less mercenary!”)

When it comes to my own mother I am finding it increasingly difficult to come up with fresh ideas for gifts come any occasion, but particularly Mothers Day. I have friends who have echoed a similar sentiment. Flowers, chocolates, ornaments are all great and suffice for a time but then suddenly they seem lame and inadequate. Maybe you only feel this way once you become a parent yourself and suddenly you appreciate your own parents more. Perhaps our gift anxiety is more about trying to repay, when really that is quite impossible.

mothers dayI have recently discovered that what humans ultimately appreciate more than anything is simply time spent together. A friend of mine who is in her late fifties concurs completely. She pointed out that as an older woman she has everything she needs materially. She has lost interest in collecting more stuff and is, in fact, giving things from her house to her adult children as she feels it is one less thing to dust. She told me that at this point in her life she is collecting memories; days spent with her grandchildren, browsing shops with her daughters and, of course, long lazy family meals where they all get together to break bread and fellowship.

That conversation certainly gave me a fresh perspective. What’s interesting is that the origin of mothering Sunday has its roots in that idea of family. Traditionally girls in service at the big houses were allowed home to visit their mothers on one Sunday during Lent. Commercialism, as with many other traditions, has wrestled the day from our hands and packaged it in flowers, schmaltzy poetry and expensive cards. Obviously if you are out of the country there is little you can do but send the cards and flowers but if you are here then you could make a bigger effort to do something that costs time rather than money.

So this year I’ve decided to cook at home. Many people like to take their mothers out for lunch on Mothers day and if you have a group of adults that may be fine. Sadly with children it is my least favourite option. There is a false sense that it will be alright as they are usually well behaved for the first 20 minutes and then you spend the rest of the time trying to restrain them from running around the dining room or escaping and getting lost. Someone always wants to go to the loo just as your dinner arrives to the table and inevitably there will be row, a spillage or some other potential calamity. Eating under such conditions is unpleasant for all, even the doting grandparents and that’s before you deal with the disapproving looks of the strangers around you.

The recipe below is ideal for a family lunch at home. There are also plenty more on the website with ‘How to’ videos as well so no excuse for not creating the perfect Mothers Day meal this Sunday.

Recipe: Rack of Lamb with Black Pudding and Red Wine Jus

Pass the Pesto

Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Having a mildly rebellious spirit the idea of Valentines Day leaves me a little cold. I don’t like being told that on any given day I should be particularly loving or affectionate. It always seems staged, lacking in spontaneity, and the mere fact that I am expected to do something makes me not want to do it at all. I like to think of myself as a romantic for the other 364 days a year and then I take a break on the 14th of February! Still, that’s probably just the grumpy old man surfacing so this year I am trying to conform. There is, however, one very good aspect of Valentines Day and that is the amount of cardboard hearts that seem to appear everywhere. If nothing else it makes me think of that organ and how we really take it for granted. That little pump in your chest keeps everything going and yet we give it little thought on a day to day basis. Modern humans are very funny. We’ll spend time and money having our cars serviced, heating boilers checked, water pumps assessed and yet in the main we pay little attention to our internal pumps and filters, many of which are irreplaceable!

The month of February is a great opportunity to think about the heart and how we treat it. Obviously heart health is about more than food, but diet definitely plays a part. We can help our hearts by cutting back on salt and losing the bad fats particularly the man made chemical versions. It can be a bit of a minefield, but rather than stopping certain things it might be easier to approach it from an adoptive path. How about becoming a little more Mediterranean in your outlook? Countless studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart disease. Personally I think the nice weather could have something to do with their overall health as well, but the diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and avocado. In essence it is a diet very much based on real food; fresh fish, fresh and cured real meat, vegetables, fruits and grains using fresh herbs to add flavour.

pestoPesto is a basil based Mediterranean concoction that we mainly associate as a partner for pasta, but this bright green sauce is fantastic with so many other things and heart healthy. You can buy green or red pesto but it is easy to make and you won’t have to worry about it having too much salt. Pesto is based on five main ingredients; fresh basil, olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic. A classic pesto can be whizzed up really quickly in a food processor by using 3 generous handfuls of basil leaves, a handful of pine nuts, a handful of grated good quality parmesan, 5 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of garlic, a pinch of Maldon salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Process the lot to a smooth sauce. You can always play with the basic recipe by using walnuts instead of pine nuts and while basil is traditionally the herb of choice, rocket, parsley or baby spinach make interesting alternatives. You can also add a little red chilli or even an anchovy for an extra taste kick if you are feeling brave.

Pesto is not just for pasta. If you are making a risotto, stir through a few teaspoons of pesto and it really lifts the taste. Pesto works well on chicken, chops or steak. It makes a really nice, fresh alternative to calorie laden creamy sauces. From what I can gather chicken breasts seem to be the dieters’ choice, particularly at this time of year. I often hear women in the shop asking about interesting things to do with chicken breasts. Pesto will certainly cheer it up. Slice the breast lengthways, without cutting all the way through. Fill the pocket with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Add a little spinach and secure with a skewer. Bake or grill until the chicken is cooked. It works equally well on fish. I often put some white fish on baking paper spread each fillet with a little freshly made pesto, then fold over the paper to make a parcel and bake for about 10 minutes at 180 – 200°C/Gas 6 or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.   A friend even uses pesto on sandwiches in place of butter and if you have left over potatoes, then this adds something special to potato salad. Just mix the pesto with some sour cream or mayonnaise, add some chopped spring onions, snipped chives and combine it all with the cold potatoes and serve. For a super snack thinly slice a French stick then spread each piece with pesto and top with some grated parmesan or mozzarella. Bake at 180°C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes. You can mix it through eggs before you scramble them or add it to white wine vinegar and a little more olive oil in a jar, shake and you have a great Italian style dressing for anything. I’m sure there are a number of other ways it can be used also and the only limit is the imagination.

There are many other things we can do for our hearts when it comes to eating well but the best thing is to eat as much fresh, real food as possible.   You won’t go far wrong by eating local food grown and reared in Co. Tipperary. For more information and recipes on fresh food check our recipes and the tipperaryfoodproducers.com site as well.


One Pot Wonders

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

chicken-kormaPossibly the most glorious thing about having an interest in food and cooking is that you will never exhaust the endless combinations of ingredients and methods available to you. The only limitation is your own imagination. We create our own mental boundaries by allowing our preconceived notions to direct us. We inherited many of these ideas from the cooks we grew up with and while many are right, some were folly at the time and have just served to build a fence around our own thoughts on a subject.   I guarantee that most people reading the title of this article will have conjured up thoughts of stews and soups. While both are important to one pot cooking, and there are many variations, we tend to forget that the one pot genre covers other single vessels such as woks and frying pans, roasting tins, casseroles and pie dishes. Once you start expanding the idea of the vessel itself a whole new world opens up to you. Now we can also eliminate the idea that all OP (one pot) efforts have to be slow cooked. I love slow cooking for a number of reasons, but particularly for the build up of wonderful aromas throughout the house as the meal draws closer. I love it when my taste buds are literally going wild with anticipation and, sure enough, that first mouthful inevitably produces a pleasure explosion that is hard to beat. But of course not everything done OP style needs to be slow cooked. Stir fry’s and risottos are very quick and tasty.

Beef & Vegetable CasseroleThere are many great benefits to OP cooking. Obviously the washing up is at a minimum and that’s a huge plus factor. It is the perfect style for people with limited kitchen space. It is a great way of retaining all the vitamins and minerals from the food you are cooking as they all mingle with the juices in the pot and you will also find that you tend not to need a lot of fat or oil. You only have to keep an eye on one pot and therefore you avoid the crazy mental arithmetic of working out the order in which to cook separate ingredients for a meal. That certainly reduces the anxiety when you are having people around to eat. Equally it is easy to transport should you be the one cooking a dish and bringing it with you. If you are time pressed you can usually prepare a hearty OP meal in advance and either leave it to slow cook for hours or reheat as necessary. Finally it is a very flexible idea where most recipes can be adjusted to the ingredients you have available. Every country in the world has its own variations on OP cooking. We are known for our stews, the French have wonderful rustic Chicken versions, the Italians are known for Osso Bucco or vats of meat sauce, the Germans love Pork varieties and of course, the Asian nations are known for their spicy stir fries and flavoursome curries; all One Pot wonders.

Obviously any single vessel can be used and considered. A particular favourite of mine would have to be Italian Style Roast chicken done in a plain old roasting tin. Along with roasting the bird and a few spuds, the Italians also cook all the other vegetables in the same dish at the same time. Peppers, thinly sliced courgettes, rosemary and garlic bulbs keep the feta cheese and sun dried tomato crumbed chicken and sliced new potatoes company, as they all bake together. When it comes from the oven it is a sight to behold and the aromas and flavours are even better. However, if you haven’t already done it, I would encourage you to invest in one decent cast iron pot or, as they are commonly known, a Dutch oven. Yes they are without a doubt expensive to buy but the good ones are a lifetime job. A friend of mine is still using one that her mother received as a wedding present! They are called Dutch ovens because heavy cast iron pots were manufactured in the Netherlands as early as the 1600s where braising had been discovered as a good way to cook tougher meats. Wild boar and moose would be slow cooked for hours as the tough fibres were rendered tender and full of flavor. With the Dutch oven Europeans then began adding vegetables, spices and herbs from their own regions and so distinctive national signature dishes emerged.   These pots have good tight fitting lids that retain the moisture in a dish, but the main advantage is that cast iron conducts and retains heat exceptionally well so food cooks evenly either on the hob or in the oven. These days they also come in so many great colors that they can be taken straight to the dining table and still look good. It is definitely an investment that you won’t regret. Do not foolishly buy a cheap imitation as it is false economy. Just save up for the real thing and it will save you money in the long run.

Braised Beef and Guinness CasseroleThis time of year is ideal for one pot cooking. We are all busy with little time for fancy cooking and the weather usually demands comfort food on these darker evenings; beef in beer with herb dumplings, steaming risottos or hearty goulashes. Fish also works really well in one pot, from fish stews, tagines and chowders, prawns with coconut rice or how about a big pot of tasty mussels served simply with some garlic bread. The combinations are endless.

Finally I cannot talk about one pot cooking without mentioning dessert. (You see, you hadn’t even considered it!) Cobblers, crumbles, chocolate fondues, rice pudding, bread and butter pudding are all cooked in just one vessel. Imagine a triumphant family meal with main course and dessert and just two cooking dishes to wash up afterwards? It’s a very attractive proposition. We live in a world that likes to complicate things and convince us that simple is lazy or perhaps boring. Not true I tell you, there are fabulous taste experiences to be thoroughly enjoyed in the simplicity of just one pot. Try it for yourself this week.

I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

Chicken Tonight

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Pat Whelan in Foodie Articles, Good Food | No Comments »

Just before the downturn there were many column inches and much media air time devoted to the great chicken debate. Chefs, producers, organic specialists, commentators, all suddenly had an Roast Chicken with Lemon, Thyme and Garlicopinion. The general public was left dazed, bamboozled with information and more confused than ever. The various labels, organic, corn fed, hand reared, free range, farm produced, left the shopper with plenty of choice but little real knowledge on which to base it. Were they implying that some were more nutritious than others and therefore had greater health benefits perhaps? Were they saying that the more money you spent on a chicken the better the taste maybe? Or were we being set up for the higher spend because of the animal welfare and the sort of trauma free life the bird had led? When the questions weren’t properly asked we were then told repeatedly “buy the best chicken you can afford”. Just how condescending is that and what the hell does it actually mean?   The whole thing was just a foul trick played on the consumer. (I too am groaning at such an obvious pun, but I couldn’t resist it, forgive me.) Then the downturn set in, the chicken debate wasn’t sexy anymore and suddenly we didn’t have a chicken leg to stand on when it came to making a decision.chickens

So this is how I see it. If you choose to buy a chicken that has been imported from some far flung land and is on offer at 2 for a Euro, then this article is of no use to you whatsoever! Be it on your own head if it is tasteless and shrinks to half its size on cooking, once the injected water drains off. I’m not being xenophobic, it’s just that I do not have first hand knowledge and experience of overseas breeders and processes and sadly I’ve seen the ‘plumped’ up sort that are just a great big con. However, I can give you an opinion on Irish chicken. The chicken breeding industry in Ireland is highly regulated and has an international reputation for being of a very high standard with all registered breeders processes carefully monitored. While not all chickens from registered breeders are considered ‘free range’ because they do not have access to an outdoor run, the birds are well fed and well cared for in clean, warm sheds, which is what chickens tend to like anyway. For this reason I will happily stand over the fact that if you buy a good quality Irish chicken, it will be nutritious and tasty. Look for key factors in the product that determine taste, ie the breed, how long the chicken is grown for and perhaps the diet, after all great food in my opinion is determined by great taste.

If you are concerned with the animal husbandry of it all then by all means purchase the bottle fed, had a story read to it every night and its feathers stroked before it was tucked into a little bed kind of chicken.   Yes it will cost a few quid but you are paying for the fact the chicken stayed at the Hilton with access to a pool, gym, wi fi and satellite TV, rather than a Jurys Inn on a room only rate. If you think it will taste that much better then you are just deluding yourself! So do indeed buy the “best chicken you can afford”, but buy it for the right reasons.

Chicken is perhaps one of the most versatile foods on the planet and the whole world seems to know it. Chicken is as popular in the east as it is in the west, be it found in a curry in India, covered with plum sauce in China, deep fried in breadcrumbs in America or casseroled in Europe. It is sold in as many ways as there are ways to cook it. It is very popular with those watching their weight as it is lean (I think that’s all of us in January) and those watching their pockets (again isn’t that universal at this time of year?) While portions are certainly convenient, possibly the best value is a whole chicken that you take home and conjure several different ways until you get to the end of it; roasted, cold with salad, sandwiched, souped and finally turned into stock for the freezer. Okay, the last is possibly aspirational, as few of us have the time to make our own stock these days, but do try it sometime as there is nothing quite as delicious as homemade stock for future dishes. I find the best thing to do is store it in ice cube trays in the freezer and then you can use it as you wish. The weather, however, often dictates the dish and there is something superbly warming about a hearty chicken casserole with loads of large, roughly chopped veg and creamy mash when the frost covers the ground.

Finally one can source the best product on the market but if you can’t cook properly all the good work of the producer is lost. Roast chicken is perhaps one of the most traditional favourite Sunday dinners in many Irish households and personally I love the stuffing. One of the simplest seasoning’s, I have discovered, by mixing sea salt, cracked black pepper, ground bayleaf and crushed garlic, simply rubbed all over the chicken delivers a superb taste.

I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

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